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Church Planting Body Count

I regularly find myself surprised at how surprised some folks are at the unsurprising. We should, after all, expect people to be the people they are, and Mark Driscoll is Mark Driscoll. Shocking, isn’t it?

Well, Mark Driscoll prepared a video for a conference on church planting in which he was very much himself, and some folks were shocked. They criticized the video, and they didn’t hand out copies as promised.

I first saw this video on Adrian Warnock’s blog. Adrian comments:

I am praying for him right now as I write this as I am sure this was the last thing he was expecting or wanting. Personally I love the video and I think he is right on with what he says. Well done Mark for standing for God and more power to your elbow!

Well, it should surprise nobody that I don’t particularly like the video, and I think there are substantial issues there beyond the exclusively man-oriented view of the world. Driscoll comments repeatedly on the things Jesus is not, and often in fairly derogatory terms. I particularly noted “tell the lady with the tambourine who shows up to church to park it” though I’m sure we’ve all been there with people who are doing things that we’d prefer they didn’t. So I disagree with the clearly male authority dominated approach.

But I’m more disturbed by the picture of Jesus that is presented. The picture of “gentle Jesus meek and mild” is not a terribly accurate one, and it does need to be balanced. But the rough, overbearing Jesus, the hunting buddy Jesus who despises people who drink herbal tea and aren’t masculine enough, is also a false and dangerous caricature. (Bias alert: I drink herbal tea. 🙂 )

There is also a good message hidden in there, though it has been buried under mounds of extraneous junk. Church planting isn’t easy. And despite almost disparaging remarks in the video about pastors of existing churches, pastoring isn’t all that easy either. (I sincerely hope that Driscoll didn’t intend to be a dismissive of the ordinary role of pastoring as he seemed to be. I think he was just very strongly focused on the church planters role, but I would suggest more care.) There will be people one cannot help, and there are people who need to be told to find another place to worship. Often that is to their benefit as well as to the benefit of the local church. But that is hidden by the shock value of the tone and of the setting for the video.

Nonetheless I would have told the leadership of the conference to have the video handed out. First, they should do so because they asked Mark Driscoll for a video, and they have some obligation not to make him spend money and then send his people home. Being people of their word should be important. Second, I don’t think moderate and liberal Christians should fear conservative ideas. That video provides me with more material to use in illustrating precisely what I don’t like about the complementarian approach and certain uses of the spiritual warfare metaphor.

I do have to ask my complementarian brethren, however, whether they would give equal time to a video presenting the egalitarian position. Is this about an open exchange of ideas, or are you just offended that a video espousing your view was not welcomed?

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9 Comments

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    Henry, perhaps you should check your facts. Was there in fact a promise to hand out the video? Driscoll seems to claim there was. But I would be surprised if the organisers had made any such promise unconditionally concerning a video which they had not seen – especially from someone who can be as controversial and insensitive as Mark Driscoll.

    Now in many ways I like Driscoll’s style. But his material does need to be treated with care. A video which might have been OK (although I don’t accept all of it) to show in the context of a known and largely male audience could be very offensive if made public in the wrong circles. Of course there is nothing to stop Driscoll publicising it personally, and indeed that is what he has now done. But now he is the one who caused offence, and not the conference organisers.

  2. Henry, perhaps you should check your facts. Was there in fact a promise to hand out the video?

    In the absence of a denial on the part of the organizers, I find the idea the video was to be given out logical. I have been both the organizer of a conference, and an invited speaker. If I invited a speaker and/or asked him to produce a video for the conference, I would be unlikely to both show the video and then refuse to hand it out.

    As a speaker, I know that it is very easy for conference organizers, without any bad intentions at all, to inflict hardship on a speaker.

    I would back off from that if the organizers make a credible claim that they did not invite the production of the video.

    While I dislike many things about the video, I am not comfortable with what appears to have happened. As I said, if there is a credible claim to the contrary, I’ll adjust my view accordingly.

  3. Charity says:

    I too found this video offensive for much the same reasons as others have done. What I find far more worrying though, is that people who were at this conference (both as delegates and workers) are saying that the video was in fact being given out. It seems to be true that not all delegates left with a copy, but that is not at all the same thing as saying it was banned.

  4. Peter Kirk says:

    Interesting, Charity. Does this imply that Driscoll’s team was distributing the video without the permission of the conference organisers? That would be a very serious breach of rules which have to be in place at any conference to stop them becoming open forums for fringe and heretical groups to proselytise. So I think we need some clarification on what actually happened. Of course it may be that there was a partial “ban” or a temporary one which was later lifted. But breach of any ban is a far more serious issue than its original imposition.

  5. In haste, I dislike the video and all its assumptions. It is crass, chauvanistic, and without the equality that Paul lays out (not) so carefully in 1 Corinthians 7. But we have only one part of Paul’s conversation. The assumptions about sex reveal ignorance of the grace of the Holy Spirit in this matter. (I am not surprised – it is rare to know Paul’s gift – even among scholars.) In his comments about how young men spend their time, he seems to think that only by his message and ‘going to church’ will they be saved. Not good news. At least not to me. Let the dead bury their dead. The placing of the video at Vimy or wherever it was is not respect for the dead or for the living. Do we teach our kids to love and then send them out to kill and be killed by other kids? What in heavens name did he mean by this anonymous setting? (I couldn’t finish the video – I tried.)

    I think I am distressed at the apparent state of North American Christianity. Do preachers (too young to understand) like this have room for artists, musicians, poets, or only for macho-man? Let’s not confuse a metaphor with God’s variety.

  6. Charity says:

    Peter
    I don’t know whether or not it’s possible to post a link on here… However on a post on http://www.indefenseofthefaith.org there are several comments. One is from someone working on the conference organisatin team and another from someone who got one of the videos – they were available at the exits but not actually being “given out” to everyone. There’s also discussion of this on Andrew Jones’ blog. It seems to me that Mark Driscoll is using the word “ban” rather inventively because the video was not distributed as widely as he would have hoped. Or maybe he does sincerely feel that way, but that doesn’t appear to be an objective view, judging by the accounts of those who were actually at the conference.

  7. Thanks for the update and the link. I think this is developing into an unnecessary dispute about procedural stuff. I withdraw any criticism of the conference organizers. I am concerned now about what I first thought was simply a bit of hyperbole–the use of the word “banned.” It’s sounding less and less appropriate.

  8. Peter Kirk says:

    See my comment on the update to this post for my withdrawal of the above comment. There is no question of the videos being distributed despite a ban. The idea of a ban seems to have originated in Mark Driscoll’s imagination.

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